Pop had been gone a year now. So it was a special treat when he’d call home. Mama said it was important to let him know how well we were doing.
“It makes him feel like his service is worth it, Susan,” she’d say.
That night Mama had sent me to my room extra early. It wasn’t a school night and it wasn’t dark out yet, but she was upset. She hadn’t talked to Pop in a while and that always made her jumpy.
I turned on the radio that Pop got for me for my birthday. I tried to remember the names of the songs I really liked and we’d sing them together when he called. We always did fun stuff like that.
I opened the window above my bed, and rested my chin upon the sill. I closed my eyes and breathed in. It smelled like rain. I opened my eyes and found a ladybug making its way across the screen. Pop said ladybugs are good luck, so I left it alone.
The shrill ring of the telephone startled me.
I bolted off my bed, nearly falling onto my doorknob. I barreled towards the kitchen and screamed, “I’ll get it!”
But Mama already had. She had one hand over the mouthpiece and a big smile plastered on her face. “It’s for you, Susan. It’s your father.”
She slipped the receiver into my hand and tugged at my ponytail before leaving the room.
“Poppy! How are you? I was listening to the radio just now. How’ve you been? Did you get to see the last Bonanza?” I didn’t wait for him to answer. “Hey, where are you?”
He laughed. “I’m doing just fine. No, I didn’t get to see the last Bonanza, but I can’t wait for you to tell me about it. And, I’m still in Germany.”
“Oh, wow, Pop. We started learning about Germany in Geography the other day. Did you get to see the Rhine? Have you seen any castles?” I twirled the cord on and off my finger. “I really miss you, Pop. When are you coming home?”
“Now, Susie-bear, you know I won’t get home for a few more months. I need you to be a brave girl for me, okay?”
“I know, Pop. I’m sorry. I’ll be brave.”
“Hey, have you heard any good songs lately?”
“Have I ever! Have you heard Blue Moon by the Marcels? Oh man, Pop. It’s so fun.”
“I haven’t had a chance to hear that one yet. It must be new. Why don’t you sing it for me? It’d sure make my day.”
I thought he’d never ask. I started in, “Bom ba ba bom... Blue moon… dip-di-dip-di-dip…I saw you standing alone…” I was just getting to the good part when I heard a strange commotion at the door.
My heart thumped wildly. A burglar?
“Hold on, Poppy,” I said pulling the cord with me. I leaned as far out into the hallway as I could. There was a man in uniform standing in the middle of our living room.
I dropped the receiver and ran straight into his arms.
He picked me up and swung me around. “Susie-bear.”
I forgot all about being brave and I started blubbering something awful. “I missed you so much, Poppy. You don’t even know.”
“I know, Susie. I missed you, too.”
I was still wrapped around him when he started walking towards the kitchen.
“Where are you goin’, Pop?”
“Well, poor Mrs. Tuttle is still on the line now, isn’t she?”
“Where do you think I called you from?” He smiled.
I loved his smile. “Hey, how did you get here so fast?”
Pop lowered me to the ground and patted the top of my head.
Then he bent over and picked up the receiver I’d left on the floor. “Thank you, Mrs. Tuttle. It’s okay to hang up now.” I could hear Mrs. Tuttle clucking through the phone. “It’s an honor, Mrs. Tuttle. Thank you for helping me with the surprise.”
Mama walked in beaming. She was dabbing at the corner of her eyes with a handkerchief.
“You still haven’t answered Susan’s question, John. How on earth did you manage to come home so early?”
“It was a fluke,” he said. “I had a chance to take my leave early. It was too good to pass up.”
I wrapped my arms around his waist. “I agree.”
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